Beetles get busy burying cow dung

July 11, 2017

Mr Marke collected the beetles from the Tatura Post Office.

One of 1050 dung beetles that were released at the Marke's Cooma property.

Murray Marke points to where the dung beetles were released only moments earlier.

A winter variety of dung beetle has hit Cooma after beef and cropping farmer Murray Marke and his wife Nola took the opportunity to make better use of their soils.

Mr Marke said the idea of importing 1050 of the Bubas byson species onto his property, which occurred on June 23, was so that cow dung could be imbedded into the soil.

‘‘The idea is to take dung under the ground so that it makes better use of our soils to grow better pastures and to grow better crops,’’ he said.

Former CSIRO scientist John Feehan, who has continued CSIRO research on the dung beetle privately for 24 years, said the Bubas byson species came from a similar climate to what it would face here in the Goulburn Valley.

‘‘They have come from France and Spain, which have a similar climate to Shepparton,’’ he said.

Mr Feehan said the species was a large one but it would take a while for soil differences to be noticed.

‘‘It could take three or four years to see the difference,’’ he said.

Despite the long wait for any obvious soil changes, the beetles act fast during the burial process.

‘‘I had 250 head of cattle in a night paddock for three nights,’’ Mr Feehan said.

‘‘The cattle produced at least eight tonnes of dung. I took the cows out and two days later took a photo of the paddock, which was as clean as a fairway on a golf course.’’

He said the black beetle could improve soil in many ways.

‘‘Dung which is buried by dung beetles can store carbon in three ways: by taking organic matter underground, aerating the soil through the beetle tunnel system and the capability of the beetles to burrow through complicated soils, enabling grass and other plant root systems to penetrate more deeply into zones which could not otherwise be accessed,’’ he said.

‘‘Dung beetle activity also provides a habitat and food supply for earthworms, reduces internal parasite loads in pasture through rapid burial of dung, and according to CSIRO research in Western Australia reduces bush fly populations by 99 per cent,’’ Mr Feehan said.

Mr Marke was sceptical about the Western Australian research.

‘‘They may reduce the flies, but I’m not sure about that,’’ he said.

■To learn more about the beetle release, Mr Marke encourages people to attend the Echuca Beef Group’s meeting at the Caledonian Hotel, Hare St, Echuca on August 15 from 6.30pm.

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